3D printing and drug repurposing
Much like old clothes can be thrifted and old cars can be revived, old medicines are repurposed. While the idea is not new, drug repurposing has started to become all the rage in the pharmaceutical industry.
What is Drug Repurposing?
Drug repurposing is when old, established, shelved, discontinued, and experimental drugs are given new medicinal uses. The most common example of drug repurposing or positioning is Viagra!
The strategy is not a new one but has started to pick up in popularity. Currently, it makes up almost 25% of the annual revenue for the pharmaceutical industry. It accounts for nearly one-third of all approvals in the last decade.
Why is drug repurposing important?
Drug repurposing is incredibly important for a variety of reasons. Here are a few such reasons:
Drugs that are being repurposed have already been tested in some capacity. There is a significant amount of trial and error that has gone into the product already. It means that the outcome of repurposing is generally safer than when creating a brand new compound.
The trials on repurposed drugs, such as early-stage human trials and efficacy trials, are usually positive. The approved repurposed drugs come from formulas that have been gone through rigorous checking already, making them positively safe for use.
As mentioned before, the drugs being repurposed have already been rigorously tested. There is a lot of information to go through, from clinical trials to efficacy trials, to human trials and more. The wealth of information speeds up the process of repurposing. This speed makes it easier to create and come up with a new use for an old drug.
● Making use of the old
Much like with old clothes or books, utilizing old medicines to create something new and more effective is significant on its own. Without repurposing, there would be no second chance for some of the shelved drugs, therefore leaving several options unexplored.
What are the challenges of repurposing?
Like with any other process, drug repurposing comes with its own set of challenges. The pharmaceutical industry, in particular, is extremely competitive and demanding. With that in mind, let us take a look at the challenges.
● Data Availability
The advantage of repurposing drugs is the reduction of Phase 1 clinical trials that are required. Since the drug has previously been tested, the idea is that the information already exists to be used. Unfortunately, in some circumstances, valuable information such as those from clinical trials is not available.
Even if the information is available, often it will be unusable. Data mining cannot be done on certain types of data. There is the risk of making a mistake when integrating different types of data provided. The lack of data and its presence can be a challenge unless it is the right type.
Pharmaceutical companies are very competitive. They are constantly looking to get a leg up on the rest of the world. The best way to do this is to keep their information to themselves. Pharma companies often refuse to give information even of drugs that are shelved. This can make repurposing the drug incredibly inconvenient and time-consuming.
The issue also arises when there is a lack of compound in the market. If the drug being repurposed is not available, then there is no way of actually repurposing it.
● Patent Issues
Legislation can be an incredibly big barrier in drug repurposing. Some national legislation do not allow for second patents or further medical use patents.
Apart from legislation, many repurposing uses have already been mentioned in the literature or are being illegally used in practice.
Off-patent drugs require a certain level of uniqueness to acquire patents for. Companies cannot have a repurposed drug too different from the original. However, if it resembles the base drug too closely, there is no patent awarded.
All medications have patents. The legalities of the patent could interfere with the process of repositioning or repurposing. The issues that come with patents can diminish the incentive to repurpose drugs.
The application of 3D printing in drug repurposing
The most favourable part of 3D printing is the innovation it allows for. When it comes to drug repurposing, there is nothing more important than innovation. There are a lot of ways 3D printing fits perfectly into the realm of drug repurposing.
As mentioned earlier, 3D printing is meant for innovation. It allows for a great degree of creative control, which is necessary for repurposing drugs. Using 3D printing technology, one would easily adjust and control the dosage, release behaviour, size, and geometry. Impossibilities bind nobody, and the sky is the limit.
You can innovate with efficiency, but there is fast and efficient manufacturing that will take place as well. 3D printing can reproduce incredibly intricate designs with ease. Not only is it faster with manufacturing, but it can produce mass amounts of the repurposed drug. It bridges a gap that nobody had noticed with ease and efficiency.
● Fast and Cost-efficient
3D printing is fast. It can recreate incredibly intricate designs quickly and at a low manufacturing cost. Not only is it cheaper to manufacture a repurposed drug but also to create a new medicine or to find a new purpose.
● Future Use
The 3D printing applicability is already present. However, in the future, the low cost and ease that 3D printing technology offers drug repurposing, and the field of medicine can change the way medication is dispensed. It can mean a brilliant change in the way medicines are created for people and even the way medical devices are made.
Drug repurposing is an incredible niche field that remains very important. It sparks new life in old drugs and allows for better treatment of diseases and disorders. Without the experimentation of existing drugs and shelved drugs, more effective treatment options for some medical conditions would have never come about. The use of 3D printing technology only aids drug repurposing. The low cost, time-efficient, and innovation-friendly technology only accelerate the field of drug repurposing.